Former University of Maine All-America defenseman Jack Capuano has been named the head coach of the 2021 U.S. Men’s National Team that will compete May 21-June 6 at the International Ice Hockey Federation Men’s World Championship in Riga, Latvia.
The World Championships involve the best available players in the world. Many aren’t available because they are involved in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The 54-year-old Capuano, an associate coach with the Ottawa Senators, has a home in Bangor. He spent seven seasons as the head coach of the NHL’s New York Islanders and led them to three Stanley Cup playoff berths.
“Any time you get the opportunity to represent your country, it is an honor,” Capuano said. “You can’t pass it up.”
One of his assistants with Team USA is former Old Town High School and UMaine assistant Nate Leaman, the head coach at Providence College. He guided the U.S. team to the gold medal this past season at the World Junior Championships.
“We’re extremely fortunate to have an outstanding coaching staff, led by Jack Capuano,” said Chris Drury, general manager of the U.S. Men’s National Team. “Their involvement with USA Hockey in various ways over the course of time and combined international experience will be of great benefit as we head into the tournament.”
Capuano said it has been a trying year in the NHL with the COVID-19 restrictions, the isolation resulting from it and the 56-game schedule condensed into just four months.
He speculated that several players, especially veterans, may elect to rest up and spend time with their families rather than play in the World Championships. He expects to have a youthful roster and is excited about it.
“I’m looking forward to working with our staff and young players,” said Capuano, who is grateful to the Senators for allowing him to coach the team.
Capuano spent nine years as a head coach in the ECHL and the AHL before landing the head coaching job with the Islanders. In his seven seasons with New York, he compiled a 227-192-64 record but was fired during the 2016-17 season.
He spent two seasons as the associate coach with the Florida Panthers and is in his second year with the Senators.
The Cranston, Rhode Island, native played three seasons at UMaine and racked up 32 goals and 89 assists in 124 games. He is third among defenseman at UMaine in career points behind the late Andre Aubut (135) and Keith Carney (126). He is 36th among all scorers.
This will be the fourth time Capuano has been a coach for Team USA. He was an assistant at the 2017 IIHF Men’s World Championships and at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. He was the head coach of the 2005 U.S. Under-18 Select team at the Five Nations Cup in Slovakia.
Capuano could be in the running for another head coaching job in the NHL. Former UMaine winger John Tortorella isn’t returning to Columbus and Rick Tocchet is out as the head coach of the Arizona Coyotes.
He said he is happy in Ottawa and likes the direction of the youthful team even though they failed to qualify for the playoffs.
But he is interested in getting another chance to be a head coach in the NHL and will look into those jobs.
“They’re good opportunities. Any coach would look into them,” he said.